StarHub, M1 fined over broadband service disruptions during COVID-19

SINGAPORE: Local telcos and M1 have been by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) over disruptions to their broadband Internet service in April and May respectively, said the authority on Sunday (Sep 6).

A fine of S$210,000 was handed to StarHub, while M1 was fined S$400,000, IMDA said in a media release.

In deciding on these amounts, IMDA took into consideration “relevant factors such as the duration, impact, and customer service measures adopted by the operators to mitigate impact”, it added.

The disruptions occurred during Singapore’s COVID-19 “circuit breaker” and prompted many complaints from Internet users frustrated by the inconvenience they experienced while working from home.

IMDA said it has concluded its investigations and found that the telcos have contravened the Code of Practice for Telecommunication Service Resilience 2016.

“We take a serious view of any service disruption to public telecommunications services, particularly during the circuit breaker period when most people were working and studying from home, and will take firm and decisive action to safeguard our consumers’ interests,” said IMDA deputy chief executive Aileen Chia.

StarHub’s service disruption affected up to 250,000 broadband subscribers for close to five hours  on Apr 15.

The incident occurred when a StarHub staff made a configuration error during a planned network migration exercise.

“IMDA’s investigations found that the incident could have been prevented if StarHub had better supervised its staff during the migration exercise,” said the authority.

It decided on a S$210,000 fine for the telco, having also considered its “efforts to restore services as soon as possible, and its prompt communication and compensation to affected subscribers”, added IMDA.

M1’S DISRUPTION “LASTED ALMOST A FULL DAY”

M1’s broadband service was disrupted over two days on May 12 and 13.

The first incident lasted 23 hours from 7am on May 12 to 6am on May 13, affecting about 18,000 customers.

The cause of the disruption was “a corrupted profile database in M1’s broadband network gateway”, said IMDA.

The next incident on May 13 lasted about six hours and affected up to 20,000 subscribers.

It “was caused by a software fault in M1’s network equipment, which affected the routing of Internet traffic for affected M1 subscribers”, said the authority.

“IMDA’s investigations found that the first incident occurred because M1’s staff and vendor had not followed prescribed procedures. For the second incident, IMDA assessed that as the software fault was the first of its kind for such equipment, M1 could not have reasonably foreseen and prevented the incident.”

On the amount of penalty given to M1 – S$400,000 – the authority said it also considered that the disruption “lasted almost a full day, causing significant inconvenience to affected subscribers, and M1’s proactive compensation to affected subscribers following the incident”.

IMDA’s Ms Chia said operators must inform customers of any “service difficulties”, rectify such issues quickly and “provide good service recovery measures”.

“We will continue to work with operators to strengthen network resilience and improve customer communications,” she added.

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